Christopher Marlow was born in 1564, as William Shakespeare. This play was probably written in 1589; however, it was not actually published until 1633, after Marlowe's death in 1593 when he was just 29 years old. This play was performed for many years and had a great influence on Shakespeare’s The Venice Merchant.
•1. Summary of the play
The play is set on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Calymath (the Turkish prince) arrives to exact Malta's tribute which has been accumulated to a considerable sum. Ferneze (Maltese governor) cannot pay the tribute immediately, but he promises to pay within a month. After the Turks leave, Ferneze decides to collect the needed money from the Jews of Malta: each Jew must give up half of his fortune. Barabas complains strongly, so his full fortune is confiscated. The Jew tries to keep part of his fortune which was hided in his mansion. Having confessed falsely, Abigail was admitted in the nunnery (formerly Barabas' mansion) and recovered her father's hidden fortune. Meanwhile, the Spanish Martin Del Bosco convinces Ferneze to break Malta's agreement with Turkey, promising to write the Spanish king for military help. Del Bosco also sells Ferneze his slaves, and Barabas ends up buying the Turkish slave Ithamore at the marketplace. At the marketplace, Barabas also runs into Mathias and Lodowick. Each young man desires to see Abigail, and Barabas promises his favours to each, but at the same time, Barabas is planning their death helped by Ithamore. Broken by his father’s selfishness and the death of her lover Mathias, Abigail on her own decides to enter the nunnery once again. Barabas, afraid that Abigail will betray him, poisons all the nuns included her own daughter Abigail who is the last to die. Before this, she manages to give friar Barnardino a written confession of her father's crimes. Barnardino in companion with the friar Jacomo get to face Barabas and insinuate they know about the Jew's crimes. In response, Barabas says that he would like to repent and become a Christian. Naturally, he will donate his huge fortune to whichever monastery he enters. The two friars, being from different monasteries, fight to win Barabas' favour, each hoping to benefit from the Jew’s considerable fortune. Barabas once again has set a trap; he will kill both of the friars without arousing suspicion. Ithamore knows plenty of incriminating information. Once he is seduced by the courtesan Bellamira, Ithamore begins to blackmail Barabas with threats to confess if the Jew does not send him gold. In the last scene of the fourth act, Barabas arrives at Bellamira's house in the disguise of a French musician and poisons his blackmailers. Meanwhile, the Turkish Bashaws have arrived. In response to Ferneze's refusal to pay, they declare war on Malta. In the final act, Ferneze prepares to defend Malta against the Turks. Ithamore, Bellamira, and her attendant Pilia Borza enter and all play their parts in revealing Barabas' crimes, but the Jew's poison takes effect and they all fall dead. Barabas meanwhile has been captured, but he pretends he is dead through the effect of a drug. He finds himself left outside the city walls. The Jew betrays Malta and leads the Turks into the city. He takes position as governor but he decides to return Malta to help Ferneze to massacre the Turkish forces. The Turkish troops also believed the Jew's trick. But Ferneze turns the tables on Barabas at the last moment, and Barabas dies. Ferneze takes Calymath as a prisoner in order to ensure Malta's future safety.
•2. About Barabas
Barabas in the Jew of Malta is an extremely revengeful and ambitious character. He challenges the power with a great cunning. The accumulated tributes, Malta has to pay to the Turks, are more than this country can afford, that is why the governor of Malta is determined to ally to the Catholic Spain if this huge European power keep at bay to...